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China Universities Waste Millions, Fail to Make Real Use of Research

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Some incentive mechanisms for university professors encourage subpar research, experts said.

Credit: Getty Images

Universities in a southern Chinese region are not doing enough to turn academic research into market applications while maintaining large piles of idle funds, according to an audit that could raise questions about the nation's ambitious tech self-sufficiency drive.

According to an audit report by the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region for 2022, nine universities in the region had extremely low conversion rates in bringing inventions to the market — below 1 percent — from 2020 to 2022. Among them, one university saw no successful industrial applications out of 862 implemented research projects funded with a total of 131 million yuan (US$18.2 million).

The findings spotlight a long-standing weak link in China's push to strengthen basic research, which it views as crucial to becoming a tech superpower by the middle of the century, and to breaking free U.S. tech-containment measures.

"Researchers appear to be conducting basic theoretical research, but often they produced a large quantity of useless research output that is primarily focused on paper-centric assessments," says Liu Ruiming, a professor with the National Development and Strategic Research Institute at Renmin University. "These outputs are neither purely beneficial for advancing fundamental theories nor directly convertible into practical applications. Therefore, this represents a state of idle and less-effective research."

From South China Morning Post
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